Posts Tagged ‘greenwashing’

London’s Olympic Shame

As most of the world would know by now, the XLVIII Olympic Games are being hosted in London, England in July 2012.  Indeed, the Games begin in only 100 days.  While I normally enjoy watching coverage of many events, I will be watching with a more sceptical eye this year.  Indeed, if I could be there in person, I would certainly want to participate in some protests.

This comes rather suddenly to me as I learned today that Dow Chemical Company (Dow Chemical) has been selected as a major sponsor of the games, touted to be the most sustainable games to date.  Indeed, BP has been selected as the Games’ sustainability sponsor.  Each of these seems not a little outrageous to me, given the disaster at the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) plant at Bhopal, India and BP’s drilling disaster Gulf of Mexico at the Deepwater Horizon platform.

The metal for the 2012 Olympic medals is being provided by Rio Tinto, a giant British mining company.  I was previously unaware of this company and the issues surrounding it, but a quick Google search reveals a flurry of activity ranging from air pollution to human rights abuse to gold and uranium mining, and much more.

In response to these sponsorships, and the dark shadow they cast on the “sustainable” Games, three groups have joined forces to create Greenwash Gold 2012.  The London Mining Network, the Bhopal Medical Appeal, and the UK Tar Sands Network are all deeply concerned about the message sent by the London 2012 Games regarding the green or “sustainable” nature of Dow, BP, and Rio Tinto.  So what’s the big deal?  I will provide brief summaries below, but you can check out Greenwash Gold 2012 for more information and to cast your vote for the Greenwash Gold Medal.  They also have produced short animations depicting (an interpretation of) the atrocities committed by each company.

Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical Taints the 2012 Olympics in London

With its sponsorship, Dow Chemical taints the 2012 Olympics in London. Click the image to go and read the article at The Ecologist, and sign the petition to stop their Olympic partnership.

In 1984, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) operated a pesticide manufacturing facility in Bhopal, India, producing a chemical called carbaryl (Sevin™).  Production of carbaryl pesticide involved the intermediary chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC).  A significant factor in locating the facility in India was that regulation in the United States were deemed “too restrictive.”

An extremely toxic chemical, MIC (CH3NCO) is slightly soluble in, but reacts strongly with, water.  Indeed, with excess water, MIC has a half-life of approximately nine minutes, and releases approximately 1.36 kJ of heat energy per gram of MIC (that’s a lot).(1)  When this heat is not moved quickly away, the MIC can quickly come to a boil.  And when the storage vessel is in poor repair, it can explode.  This is essentially what happened at Bhopal.  Thousands were killed, and they were the lucky ones.  Tens- to hundreds-of-thousands of survivors suffer from painful physical conditions, including various cancers, skin conditions, respiratory problems, and  more.(2)

Despite claims to the contrary, UCC did little to help the victims of the disaster.  In 2001, Dow Chemical merged with UCC, but refused to accept any responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.  This in spite of the fact that, while UCC remains a “separate business to Dow”, Dow “owns 100% of its shares, elects its board, and UCC’s current CEO is even a senior Dow official.”(3)

And now Dow is happily trying to “green its image” by participating as a major sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  Can you say Greenwash?


After the events of April – October 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, I think I would be hard-pressed to find someone unaware of at least one of BP’s environmental atrocities.  It is laughable indeed to have them as the Sustainability Sponsor of the Games.

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the largest environmental disaster in United States history.  In order to deal with the financial burden this caused, BP liquidated much of its Canadian holdings.  However, it is still very active in the controversial development of the Alberta Oil Sands.  BP and other resource companies don’t seem to understand that, while there is a lot of oil tied up in those deposits, we need it to last.  And we need time to develop technologies and methods of understanding and remediating these developments.

Adding insult to injury, BP is actively exploring for economical oil reserves in the Arctic.  While spills are equally destructive no matter their location, the Gulf of Mexico is far more accessible to those working to clean it up.  A spill in the Arctic would likely be a disaster beyond our comprehension.  Imagine polar bears wandering around, coated black from sticky oil, licking and consuming this oil in an effort to stay clean.  No doubt any attempt to clean up an Arctic spill will be hampered both by simple geography (climate conditions, terrain, etc) and by wildlife.

So of course they would take the opportunity to sponsor the Olympics as a “sustainability” sponsor in an effort to clean up their severely tarnished name.  Don’t let them get away with it!

Rio Tinto

For Rio Tinto I am going to have to defer to the massive knowledge of the Internet.  You can start by reading at Greenwash Gold 2012.


Germ-Free Organic Pillows?

Walking through Bed Bath & Beyond yesterday, I found something that seemed rather strange to me.  Organic pillows.
Allergy Luxe Organic Pillow
This started me wondering: “what in the world is an organic pillow?”  I understand that people like “organic” products, but come on, pillows?  And it’s really hard to miss, packaged in a half-burlap, half-plastic sack.  If the manufacturer really wanted to go green, they could very easily have used a whole burlap sack and sew a cloth label onto it!  That way the packaging could be reused for, say, potato storage, grocery bags, covering tomato plants in inclement weather, little Suzie’s art project, and so on.  Hell, you could even use the sack as a pillow case if you’re in a tight spot at the moment (but then, you wouldn’t be getting this particular pillow, I guess).
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Greenwashing at Heritage Park?

I went to Heritage Park with Ken and Tod today for Heritage Day.  It was cooler and not nearly as busy as we expected, but those turned out to be blessings: it’s never terribly nice to visit a busy park on a hot day, so a scarcely populated park on a cool day is a treat.  I haven’t been to the park since before the renovations and opening of Gasoline Alley.

We had planned to meet at the Big Rock Interpretive Brewery for a craft brewing demonstration, but unfortunately the demo was cancelled due to “circumstances beyond their control”.  So, we took some time going through Gasoline Alley, looking at the very cool cars, trucks, wagons, and fuel pumps.  There is some really neat stuff in there – my brother-in-law, a fan of vintage cars, would thoroughly enjoy this exhibit.  I unfortunately neglected to bring the camera, so have no pictures to help document this adventure.

Lunch was had at Gunn’s Dairy Barn, since it was one of few food vendors with more than just hot dogs, chips, soup, and drinks.  I was rather intrigued when we were all served our food on paper plates explicitly stamped “Biodegradable”, and then noticed that there was no immediately-visible mechanism for them to be recycled.  I find this intriguing and interesting because there are recycling bins (for beverage containers) next to each trash bin in the park.  Once I made note of this strange inequity we started talking about how much this looks like greenwashing, raising some questions:

  1. Why is there no visible mechanism to recycle these plates?
  2. With bioplastic so readily available, why are they not using these for cups and cutlery?
  3. With all the available space in the park, why is there no composting station on the grounds?

We understand that this is an historical park, so would not expect that the compost be visible to the public (historical accuracy).  However, having at least one compost heap visible to the public would certainly help to educate and encourage park visitors.

I have completed a survey online and wrote about my concerns there, but I also will be calling Heritage Park Administration to talk about these points.  I am very interested to hear what they say, and will definitely update here with the results.  I’ll also be writing more about greenwashing soon.  Stay tuned.

Green Trials and Tribulations

Franke James has documented the difficulty she had in converting her old-fashioned concrete/asphalt driveway into a green driveway.  It turns out that the City of Toronto was heavy into greenwashing.  There’s no other way to describe what Franke had to deal with.

Franke has a Master of Fine Arts, and I cannot say I’ve ever seen such raw style in a blog, anywhere!  I highly recommend reading this blog.